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Volume three - The Art of War


Part 66

Sun Tzu said: There are different kinds of terrain in nature. Some terrain is easily accessible, some is entrapping, some temporizing, some constricted, some precipitous and some distant.

What terrain is accessible? Ground that is easy for both your troops and the enemy's to move across is called accessible terrain. If you enter the accessible region, you should first take high and sunny positions and keep your supply routes unimpeded. This is convenient for you to fight with the enemy.

Part 67

Ground that is entrapping is easy for you to enter, but difficult to get out from. In such terrain you make a sally if the enemy is unprepared, and you will defeat him. If the enemy is fully prepared for your coming and you launch an attack, you may not defeat him, and you will have a difficult time getting back. This is the disadvantage.

Part 68

Ground that is temporizing is disadvantageouS for both the enemy and yourself to make a sally. In such terrain even if the enemy offers you an attractive bait, do not make a sally, but pretend to retreat. When his troops are halfway out in pursuit of you, you may strike them. This is the advantage.

Part 69

If you occupy such a ground that is narrow or constricted, you should block the narrow passes with strong garrisons and wait for the enemy there. If the enemy has taken it first and blocked these narrow passes, you should not make a sally. If the enemy has not blocked them, you may pursue him.

Part 70

If you first occupy a precipitous ground you should take a high position on the sunny side to wait for the coming enemy. If the enemy races to control it, you should lead your troops away, and do not make a sally.

Part 71

If the enemy stations his troops on a distant terrain and his strength matches yours, it is certainly not easy to provoke a battle. Therefore it is to your disadvantage to sally.
These, then, are the ways to take advantage of six different types of terrain to fight. The generals have the highest responsibility to inquire into them carefully.

Part 72

A general should know six situations that point to the defeat of an army: when soldiers take flight, when they have lax discipline, when the army is bogged down by weak soldiers, when it collapses under insurgence, when it is disorganized and when it is routed. None of these situations can be attributed to natural disasters, they are the faults of the generals, which are not inevitable.

Part 73

When conditions and military strengths are equal between you and your enemy, if your army has to fight one ten times its size, the result is your flight. When soldiers are brave and skilled, but officers are weak and incompetent, the whole army will be lax in discipline. When officers are valiant and competent but soldiers are weak and out of training, the army will be bogged down. When some senior officers have grudges against the commander, they are insubordinate. When they encounter the enemy, they rush into battle without authorization. If at the same time, the commander is ignorant of their abilities, the army will collapse. When the commander is weak, incompetent and fails to command respect, when officers and soldiers behave in an undisciplined way, lacking proper training and clear instructions, when military formations are disorderly, the army is in serious disorganization. If a commander fails to estimate the enemy's strength, uses a small force against a large army, fights the strong enemy with his weak troops and at the same time does not select crack units as vanguards, the result is rout.

All these six situations are the causes of defeat. It is the most important responsibility of a commander to study them with great care.

Part 74

Terrain is an important aid to a commander in military operations. Correctly estimating the enemy's situation, creating conditions to win, and carefully calculating the dangerous grounds and distances are the basic duties of a wise commander. He who knows these and can apply them in war will definitely win; he who is ignorant of these and cannot employ them in war will certainly lose.

If, in the light of the prevailing situation, fighting is sure to result in victory, a wise commander will decide to fight even if the sovereign tells him not to. Conversely, if the situation points to defeat, he will decide not to fight even if the sovereign orders him to.

Therefore, a great commander advances without seeking personal fame and gain, retreats without shirking responsibility, aims at protecting the safety of the people and promotes the interests of the sovereign. Such a commander is a gem of the state.

Part 75

If a general cares for his men as he does infant$, they will follow him through thick and thin. If he dearly loves his men as he does his own beloved sons they will be willing to die with him in battle. If a general, indulges his men but does not know how to use them, loves them but cannot command them, and when they violate laws and regulations, he fails to punish and manage them, such soldiers are like spoiled children and will be useless for battle.

Part 76

A general, who only knows his troops' ability to launch an attack but does not know the enemy's invulnerability, will only have half the chance of victory. He, who only knows the enemy may be defeated but does not know his own troops' inability to fight, will also only have half the chance of victory. If he knows that the enemy can be defeated and that his own troops have the ability to strike, but does not know if the lay of the land makes it unsuitable for battle, his chance of winning is also merely half.

So a general who is skilled in military operations moves his troops without losing his direction and purpose and acts with unlimited resources and adaptations. So it is said: Know both the enemy and yourself and you will win victory with no danger; know both weather and geographical conditions and you will be evervictorious.

The Nine Varieties of Ground

Part 77

Sun Tzu said: Ground can be classified into nine geographical positions according to the way of using military operations. They are: dispersive ground, frontier ground, contentious ground, open ground, focal ground, serious ground, difficult ground, encircled ground and desperate ground.

Part 78

When a prince wages a campaign in his own territory, the place is called dispersive ground*.

Enemy territory which he enters, but not deeply, is called frontier ground*.

The position that is favourable for both the enemy and yourself to occupy is called contentious ground. The position that is accessible to both sides is called open ground.

A position, where three neighbouring states meet, and which whoever first gets control of will gain the support of other neighbouring states, is called focal ground.

When a prince penetrates deeply into hostile territory, having passed through many enemy cities and towns, he is in serious ground*.

A place with interlocking mountains, tangled forests and impenetrable marshes or any place that is hard to travel through is called difficult ground.

A place to which access is constricted and from which return requires making a detour, so that a small troop will suffice to defeat a large army, is called encircled ground.

Such a place where a desperate and speedy battle will save you or else you will be defeated and destroyed is called desperate ground.

* dispersive ground: Here both officers and soldiers long to return to their nearby homes.
* frontier ground: Here the soldiers can all get back home easily.
* serious ground: It is difficult for soldiers to return home from this ground.

Part 79

As a conclusion, never fight in dispersive ground; never stop in frontier ground; never attack the enemy who first reaches contentious ground; never allow the army's communication to be blocked in open ground; form alliances with neighbouring princes in focal ground; plunder for provisions if arriving at serious ground, pass through swiftly, if you meet difficult ground; devise plans to escape in encircled ground; and fight a last-ditch battle in desperate ground.

Part 80

In ancient times the generals who were skilled in military operations knew clearly how to make the enemy lose contact between the van and the rear, prevent his main body of soldiers and small divisions from cooperation, make it impossible for the superiors and the subordinates to support each other and communicate with each other, scatter the enemy soldiers so that they could not concentrate, and keep them in disorder even if they were assembled.

The skilled generals would advance when it was to their advantage and halt when situations were unfavourable.

It may be asked, "If the enemy comes to attack you with a large and well-ordered army, how do you deal with it?"

The answer is, "Seize what he cherishes and he will conform to your desires."

Part 81

The essence of military operations is speed, taking advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness, going by routes he docs not expect and attacking him where he is not on guard.

Part 82

The principles for making war in the enemy state are as follows. When you penetrate deeply into hostile territory, your soldiers will be united and single-minded, and it will be impossible for the defenders to defeat you. If you enter fertile land, you should plunder it for enough provisions for your men. Nourish them and do not exhaust them; keep them in high morale and conserve their energy; direct your troops with ingenious tactics so that the enemy cannot see through your plan.

You should throw your soldiers into a position from which there is no retreat, and where they will not flee even when facing death. Now that the soldiers are not afraid of death, there will be nothing for them to fear. Both officers and soldiers will do their uttermost to fight. Soldiers deep in a dangerous territory will become fearless, there is no road for them to retreat, they will stand firm. Stuck in the enemy's land, they are bound together. As there is no choice, they cannot but fight a desperate battle.

Soldiers as these need no training to be vigilant. They will do what you want them to do before you ask them, they will cooperate closely before you condition them and they will consciously follow your direction before you order them. You should prohibit superstition and dispel rumours and suspicion among your soldiers, then they will not desert the army even in the face of death.

Soldiers have no surplus wealth not because they have a dislike for possessions; they are fearless of death not because they have a dislike for longevity.

On the day the army is ordered to make a decisive battle, soldiers may sit crying with tears wetting their garments, some may lie down there with tears flowing down their cheeks*. But if you throw them into a position where there is no way for them to retreat, they will be undaunted, as brave as Zhuan Zhu or Cao Gui*.

* Soldiers weep because they are so stirred.
* Zhuan Zhu: a famous hero in the Spring and Autumn Period; Cao Gui: another famous hero in the same period.

Part 83

Those who are skilled in military operations should be as dexterous as the shuairan, the snake of Mount Chang*. If you strike its head, its tail will launch an attack on you; if you hit its tail, its head will strike you; if you beat its body, it will attack with both its head and tail.
It may be asked, "Can troops achieve instantaneous coordination as that snake?"

The answer is "They can."

Everyone knows that the people of Wu and the people of Yue are foes*, but when they travel by the same boat caught in a storm, they will help each other just as both the left and the right hands cooperate. So holding the war horses together or burying the chariot wheels is not a reliable way to keep the soldiers together. Uniting the soldiers to fight bravely depends on good management and command. The correct use of geographical situations will make troops bring their courage and ability into full play.

A skilful general should command thousands upon thousands of horses and men as if he were leading a single man who will obey without choice.

*Mount Chang: It was anciently known as Mount Heng.
* Wu, Yue: Two kingdoms of the Zhou Dynasty (about 500 B.C.)

Part 84

In commanding an army, a general must have a mind that is serene and unfathomable. He must administrate his troops in an impartial and upright manner. He should keep his officers and soldiers ignorant of his military plans. He changes his arrangements and alters his military plans without anyone knowing. He shifts his campsites and takes circuitous routes without anyone anticipating his purpose.

A general who leads his troops to fight a decisive battle should cut off all means of retreat as if he kicks off the ladder behind the soldiers after they have climbed up a height. When he leads his troops deep into a princedom, he should have the momentum of an arrow that has been released. He burns the boats and breaks the cauldrons to make the soldiers resolute in fighting. He drives his soldiers here and there as freely as he does a flock of sheep without anyone knowing where he will go. He assembles his whole army and puts it into dangerous situations. This is what a commander should do.

Varying tactics according to geographical positions, advancing or retreating according to what is advantageous and observing the laws of human nature are what a general must study and examine carefully.

Part 85

The way to make war in the enemy's state is as follows: the deeper your troops penetrate into hostile territory, the more they concentrate their spirit to fight; the less deep they penetrate, the less their will to fight is. Crossing a neighbouring country to a battlefield where there is no way for soldiers to return, you are in critical ground. In a position which extends in all directions, you have entered focal ground. Deep in the enemy's territory, you have entered serious ground. Penetrating a little distance, you are in frontier ground. When you arrive at a place with rugged terrain at your back and a narrow pass in front, you are in encircled ground. And when you enter a region where there is no way to retreat, you are in desperate ground.

Part 86

Thus, when you are in dispersive ground, you should unify the will of your soldiers; when you are in frontier ground, you should keep the van and the rear linked up; when you are in contentious ground, you should hasten up your rear troops; when you are in open ground, you should defend your camp carefully; when you are in focal ground, you should form strong alliances with neighbouring princes; when you are in serious ground, you should ensure a continuous flow of provisions; when you are in difficult ground, you should press forward swiftly; when you are in encircled ground, you should block the points of access or egress; when you are in desperate ground, you must show your soldiers that there is no choice but a last-ditch fight.

So a general must know the psychology of soldiers: that they will resist while surrounded, fight desperately while being forced to and follow the general while fallen into dangerous situations.

Part 87

A general who is ignorant of the intention of the neighbouring princes cannot form alliances with them, he who is ignorant of the interlocking mountains and tangled forests, dangerous abysses and precipices, swamps and marshes cannot move his troops; he who fails to hire native guides cannot occupy the favourable ground; he who is ignorant of advantages and disadvantages of various battle positions cannot command an army befitting an overlord.

Part 88

If an overlord's army attacks a strong state, even the strong state cannot collect its strength to resist. Wherever such an army goes, it overawes its enemy and prevents his allies from joining him.

Hence, a state with such an invincible army does not need to seek alliances with other states, nor docs it need to establish its power in these states. It only relies on its own actual strength to overawe the enemy, and it will be able to capture the enemy's cities and destroy his state.

Part 89

If you lead an overlord's army you must bestow rewards irrespective of customary practice and issue orders irrespective of convention, you can command thousands upon thousands of horses and men as if you were leading a single man. Set your troops to operation but never tell them your plans; use them to gain advantage, but never tell them the dangers and disadvantage involved. Only by throwing an army into a perilous position can they survive; only by putting them in desperate ground can they live. Provided the troops are placed in danger, they will be able to turn defeat into victory.

Part 90

Success in military operations lies in pretending to follow the enemy's intentions, but in fact, concentrating your troops to attack one aspect of the enemy. You will be able to kill his commander even if you are a long drive of a thousand li away. This is so-called using artful and ingenious plans to accomplish great tasks.

Part 91

On the day of making a final decision to fight, you should close all passes, abrogate all official tallies*, and terminate all contact with the enemy's emissaries. Carefully examine your military plans in the temple council* and make decisions. If you find out the opponent's weak point, you must break through it speedily. Seize what is most valuable to the enemy first. Don't betray your time of attack to him. In pursuring your plans modify them according to the enemy's situations in order to win. At first assume the coyness of a maiden and when the enemy gives you an opening, attack him as swiftly as a running hare. This will make the enemy unable to resist you.

*official tally: In former times each traveller must possess an official pass which was examined by the wardens at the frontiers.

* the temple council: In ancient China, the most important decision must be made in the ancestral temple, which is a religious rite. So the temple is different from military headquarters.

Fire Attack

Part 92

Sun Tzu said: There are five ways of attacking with fire. The first is to burn the enemy troops; the second is to burn their provisions and property; the third, their equipment; the fourth, their arsenals; and the fifth, their transportation lines.

To attack with fire requires some media. Materials for setting fire must always be at hand. There are suitable seasons to launch a fire attack and suitable days for starting a fire. The suitable season for a fire attack is when the weather is dry; the suitable days for setting fire are when the moon is in the position of the constellations of the Sieve, the Wall, the Wing or the Cross-bar*. For, when the moon is in those positions, strong winds will rise.

* The Sieve, the Wall, the Wing and the Cross-bar are four of twenty-eight constellations in ancient astronomy of China.

Part 93

If your employ a fire attack you must adopt appropriate military response according to different situations caused by five ways of fire attack. When a fire is set within the enemy's camp, you should coordinate your action from without in advance. When the enemy's camp is on fire and yet his soldiers remain calm, you should bide your time and do not launch an attack. When the flames reach a height, you may follow it up with an attack if you can, and do not if you cannot. When a fire can be set from outside the enemy's camp, you need not wait until it is started inside, but you should select a suitable time to set fire. If you start a fire from up-wind, never launch an attack from down-wind. The wind that continues blowing during the day is likely to subside at night.

Any army must know about the varying situations under the five ways of fire attack and keep waiting for suitable time.

So a general who uses fire to assist his attack will be sure to win; he who uses water to assist his attack only show that he is strong. Water may stop the enemy from moving forward, but cannot deprive the enemy of his impediment.

Part 94

To win a battle and capture the spoils but to fail to consolidate such achievements forebode danger. For it is a waste of time and effort. An enlightened sovereign must know how to deliberate upon this problem and a good general should carefully deal with it. If it is not advantageous, never send your troops; if it does not yield success, never uso your men; if it is not a dangerous situation, never fight a hasty battle.

A sovereign should not wage a war simply out of anger, nor should a general dispatch his troops to fight simply out of indignation. When it is favourable to you, take action; when it is unfavourable, do not act. Generally speaking, a man who is enraged will in time become happy, and he who is indignant will again become pleased, but a state that has perished can never revive, nor can a man who has died be brought back to life.

Therefore an enlightened sovereign should handle the matter of war in a prudent way, and a good general treat war with caution. This is the way that keeps the state in peace and security, and the army intact.

Use of Spies

Part 95

Sun Tzu said: When an army with one hundred thousand officers and soldiers is sent to war a thousand li away, the common people and the state treasury together have to spend a thousand pieces of gold everyday in support of it. There will be continuous disturbance at home and abroad, and a lot of common people involved with convoys are exhausted from performing transportation services. About seven hundred thousand households* will be unable to cultivate their fields. If a general engages his state in a drawn-out war for several years to strive for victory which is decided merely in a single day, and if the general begrudges the expenditure of a hundred pieces of gold in honours and emoluments to employ spies and is thus ignorant of the enemy's situations, he is, of course, completely devoid of humanity. Such a man is not a good general, not a good assistant to his sovereign, and no master of victory.

Therefore, an enlightened sovereign and an able general can defeat the enemy whenever they take action and achieve extraordinary accomplishments, because they can foresee the development of war. Such fore-knowledge cannot be obtained from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had from analogous experiences, cannot be found by calculating the positions of the sun, the moon and stare. It must be obtained from the people who clearly know the enemy's situations.

* In ancient China, eight families comprised a community. When one family sent a man to join the army, the remaining seven families contributed to its support. So, when an army of one hundred thousand was raised those unable to attend fully to their own ploughing and sowing amounted to seven hundred thousand households.

Part 96

There are five kinds of spies to be used: native spy, inside spy, converted spy, expendable spy and surviving spy.

When you use the five kinds of secret agents simultaneously, the enemy cannot know the principle of their operation. It is divinely intricate and becomes the greatest magic weapon for the sovereign to defeat the enemy.

Native or local spies are those employed from among the enemy's villagers. Inside spies are those employed from among the enemy's officials. Converted spies are those employed from among the enemy spies. Expendable spies are our own secret agents, who are deliberately give some false information of ours to report to the enemy. Frequently they would be caught and put to death. Surviving spies are those who come and go between the enemy and us, and return safely with the enemy's information.

Part 97

In regard to trusted followers in the armed forces, none is more intimate than the spies who are close to the general or the commander; of all rewards, none is more generous than those given to spies, and regarding military secrets, none is more confidential than those relating to espionage.

He who is not a sage cannot use spies; he who is not humane and just cannot command spies; he who is not careful and subtle cannot get truthful information from spies.

Subtle indeed! Truly subtle! There is no place where espionage is not possible. If a secret plan is divulged prematurely, the spy and those who are told about it shall be put to death.

Part 98

If you plan to strike an enemy's troops, or attack an enemy's city, or kill an enemy's commander, you must find out first the name of the chief garrison commander, his aides-de-camp, trusted followers, ushers, gatekeepers and bodyguards, and you must instruct your spies to investigate these in detail.

Part 99

You must ascertain those enemy spies who have been sent to conduct espionage against you. Bribe them, exhort and release them to serve you. At last they will become converted spies and work for you.

Through these converted spies, you can obtain information about the enemy and recruit native spies and inside spies. In this way, your expendable spies may convey the false information about your army to the enemy. In the same way, the surviving spies you sent to the enemy may return on schedule and give you information.

A sovereign must know how to use the five types of spies. Such knowledge is necessarily derived from the converted spies, so converted spies should be rewarded generously.

Part 100

In ancient history, the rise of Yin* was due to Yi Zhi, who was former minister of Xia; and the rise of the Zhou Dynasty* was due to Jiang Ziya*, the former minister of Shang.

So only the enlightened sovereign and the able general can find out and use the intelligent men as spies and achieve great tasks. The use of spies is essential in war, and the army must depend on this in its action.

* Yin, the later period of the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century B.C.).
* Zhou Dynasty, (llth-2nd century B.C.)
* Jiang Ziya: alias L?Ya.

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